BANNER ELK, N.C. — Lees-McRae President Barry M. Buxton announced that he will retire in May 2018 and that a search for his replacement has begun. Buxton has served as the president of Lees-McRae since June 1, 2010 and is the 15th president in the 116-year-history of the institution.
In announcing his retirement, Buxton expressed gratitude to Lees-McRae students, faculty, staff and the Board of Trustees. “I am humbled by my years at this sacred place, but the people of Lees-McRae have left me truly grateful and blessed,” he said.
Throughout his tenure, the college experienced enrollment growth, balanced operating budgets, expansion of curricular offerings, and saw its regional accreditation reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Under Buxton’s leadership, the college broadened its educational reach with the addition of online programs that grew from 49 students to almost 300 students in four years.
The historic campus witnessed a physical transformation with construction of 30,000 square feet of additional student space, including the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences, the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the Lauritsen Technical Theatre and Design Studio. Buxton also oversaw the renovation and modernization of the intellectual center of campus – the college library – in to the Dotti M. Shelton Learning Commons.
During Buxton’s eight and half years as president, Lees-McRae completed $7.5 million in additional physical improvements. Over the same period, the college net assets grew by 58 percent and institutional debt was reduced by 38 percent. Buxton returned the campus to its residential roots with more than 90 percent of Banner Elk students living in college facilities. He also established Lees-McRae as one of the nation’s only pet-friendly campuses and led the effort to be designated a Bicycle-Friendly University.
Buxton currently serves as president of the NCAA Division II athletics conference, Conference Carolinas, as well as on the executive committee of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities.
A. Hope Williams, president of NCICU, summed up his service to Lees-McRae and the state saying, “Dr. Buxton cares deeply about students and their success, about the college and about all of higher education. His warmth, sincerity, energy, and creativity will be missed by the college community and by all his colleagues in higher education in North Carolina.”
In a diverse career spanning 35 years, he has been a teacher, researcher, publisher, editor and community leader. In 2016, Buxton received the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine from former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. The award is one of the highest civilian-focused honors the governor of North Carolina can bestow.
Prior to Lees-McRae, Buxton served as Vice President for Special Projects at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was responsible for major gift solicitation, leadership development and foundation relations.
A native of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Buxton has a long history of involvement with non-profit organizations in Appalachia. During the 1980s, he served as Executive Director of the 16-member Appalachian Consortium. Buxton holds two degrees from Appalachian State University, where he received his teacher certification and was an E.F. Lovill Fellow, and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska.
“I am so proud of all we have accomplished together, and know there is more to achieve,” Buxton said. “I look forward to my time remaining at Lees-McRae, and will continue to work with faculty and staff to elevate everything that we do.”
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